U.S.| O’Connor Launches Initiative to Abolish Elected Judges

posted on 12.23.2009 by

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has launched an initiative that would end voting for judges. Read more

Report| Independence of Lawyers and Judges

posted on 11.24.2009 by

International Law Observer analyzes the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, issued 24 March 2009. The report was endorsed by the Human Rights Council during its twelfth session this past October. Read more

Guatemala: Judiciary susceptible to external influence, UN says

posted on 10.21.2009 by Lisa

From the UN News Centre:

Weaknesses within Guatemala’s judicial system continue to hamper the fight against impunity, according to a new United Nations report which points to a lack of independence among some judges as one of the key problems.

“Some judges appear to be subject to external influence to the detriment of justice,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in his report on the activities of the independent body set up with UN help to investigate the activities of illegal armed groups in Guatemala.

The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, known by its Spanish acronym CICIG, seeks to bolster the rule of law and is permitted by its mandate to conduct independent investigations and help authorities bring representative cases to trial in national courts. [...]

More here.

ICJ: Human Rights Council urged to protect judges and lawyers in times of crises

posted on 09.15.2009 by Lisa

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) urged the UN Human Rights Council as it opened its 12th session in Geneva on 14 September 2009 to establish a new expert mandate to improve protection of human rights of individuals in armed conflicts and generally in any crisis situations. The ICJ requested the Council to harness protection of judges and lawyers from violence and intimidation inflicted on them for their professional functions. It also sought accountability for human rights violations and international crimes committed by the Israeli Army, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups during the recent war in Gaza. Read more

U.S.| Supreme Court says elected judges must not rule on major backers

posted on 06.08.2009 by

From the New York Times: Elected judges must disqualify themselves from cases involving people who spent exceptionally large sums to put them on the bench, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 5-to-4 decision.

The decision, the first to say the Constitution’s due process clause has a role to play in policing the role of money in judicial elections, ordered the chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court to recuse himself from a $50 million case against a coal company whose chief executive had spent $3 million to elect him.

Thirty-nine states, including New York, elect at least some of their judges, and election campaigns, particularly for state supreme courts, have in recent years grown increasingly expensive and nasty. In the last decade, spending on elections for state high courts has reached $200 million, according to Justice at Stake, a group that tracks campaign spending. Elected judges routinely accept contributions from lawyers and litigants who appear before them, and they seldom disqualify themselves for cases involving donors.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in a decision that split along familiar ideological lines, said the Constitution required disqualification when an interested party’s spending had a “disproportionate influence” in a case that was “pending or imminent.” [...]

More here.